Problems Summary & Study Guide

Jade Sharma
This Study Guide consists of approximately 41 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Problems.
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Problems Summary & Study Guide Description

Problems Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Problems by Jade Sharma.

The following version of this book has been used to create this guide: Sharma, Jade. Problems. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2016.

Maya is stuck in a rut, oblivious to the passage of time as she spends her days doing heroin and obsessing over her body. She is married to Peter, a handsome bartender she met at her job at the bookstore. They live in an apartment in Manhattan that Maya bought using the inheritance she received from her father's death. Though she loves Peter and he loves her, their marriage seems to have hit a snag. They no longer communicate with one another as they used to, mostly due to Maya's self-obsession and Peter’s alcoholism. She is supposed to be working on her master’s thesis, but instead she begins an affair with Ogden, her favorite professor from college. Ogden does not return her affection. While dealing with the dissatisfaction of her marriage and job at the bookstore, Maya must also contend with and avoid her overbearing Indian mother, who is dealing with multiple sclerosis.

Coming down from a high and feeling sick, Maya has a conversation with her high school friend, Molly. They talk about her affairs and the discontentment they both feel about their lives. Maya visits her friend Elizabeth, a successful magazine editor and the one who sells Maya her heroin along with other drugs. Maya meets Noah, Elizabeth’s crack addict ex-boyfriend, and Candy, a woman from upstate New York that Noah met recently. Noah steals Candy’s Xanax and Maya has to deal with the woman’s suspicion and anger. Maya admires Elizabeth’s profession and her physical appearance, which she is not able to replicate herself. Before she leaves, Elizabeth gives her methadone instead of heroin and Maya receives a better high as a result.

Peter and Maya go to Vermont to visit Peter’s family for Thanksgiving. Maya is not looking forward to it, relying on Xanax to get through the trip. The family is known for their frugal and Christian nature. Peter’s father, Rick, is a pastor and Peter's sister, Grace, is very religious as well. Maya tiptoes around the family, not feeling part of the group, while also dealing with withdrawal symptoms. Maya also draws a comparison between herself and Sue, Peter’s younger brother’s new girlfriend, who is better at dealing with the family. Despite the tension, Maya and Peter are able to have a good time but Peter is confronted with Maya's problems when Rick talks to Maya about Peter’s drinking problem. Maya called Rick ahead and spoke to him about his son’s worsening drinking problem. Though things go smoothly, Maya accidentally shows the family a film with a partial sex scene that upsets the conservative parents. Maya is upset at Peter for not standing up to him, but he does indulge her.

Once back from the Thanksgiving trip, Maya meets Ogden, looking forward to stepping away from the drama of the past few days. However, Ogden surprises her by saying that they can no longer see each other. Maya is upset and begs Ogden not to leave her, but he insists that he never loved her and that she was misguided about the nature of their relationship. Still mulling the end with Ogden, Maya notices changes in Peter, subconsciously knowing that he is about to leave. She begins to meet people on OkCupid, but is still blown away when Peter leaves her. He reveals that their relationship had been drawing to an end, and he knows of her contempt for him as well. To spite him, she does heroin as he tries to console her. After Peter leaves, Maya loses her job at the bookstore, spending her days doing heroin and Xanax.. She finds a job working as a temp, and tries to initiate a relationship with a man there but is thwarted when he realizes that she does drugs. Douglass, Elizabeth’s friend, moves in with Maya to provide her company and serves as her runner for heroin.

Maya falls into a cycle of drugs and inactivity. She begins to meet men on Craigslist who want her to perform their sexual fantasies, paying her handsomely as a result. She cannot seem to justify stopping her behavior, since she needs the money for her drug habit. One night, she is attacked by a group of young people who mistake her for a Jewish woman. Her drug use escalates, and along with her limited food intake, it leads to an overdose and she ends up in the hospital. She does not want the hospital to think it is a suicide attempt and tries to leave but she is thwarted. Eventually her mother and brother arrive, and then take her to a psychiatric facility in Washington D.C, where Maya is upset with her mother for admitting her. While in the psych ward, she strikes up a friendship with Keisha, a single mother who attempted suicide. Though her early days are difficult, Maya adjusts to life in the ward and begins to find a semblance of emotional stability. She gets scared once she has to leave the ward. Once on the outside, she begins to see men and continues her drug use again, even as part of her thinks it might be time to stop. Ogden leaves New York for Oregon, but promises to keep in touch with Maya, reminding her that he is her friend and will always be there for her. She eventually has Douglass move out and has a new roommate, Ryan, who is timely with his rent and more stable professionally and emotionally. With a new perspective on life, Maya begins to think about the future, and that she has room and time to grow as a person, with so much life ahead of her.

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